Google Mum

photo credit: SanforaQ8 via photopin cc

photo credit: SanforaQ8 via photopin cc

So, there’s this family right. Mum, Dad, teenage son.

Blue lips

And they’re having dinner one night when the son casually mentions that time his lips went like, you know, blue.

And the mother, who’s mid-forkful of mac and cheese, goes, “WHAT!!!!”

And the son, who’s spooning food onto his plate goes … “Oh, I didn’t tell you. Yeah, me and (friend who shall remain nameless) decided it would be fun to put blue food colouring in our juice and, well, like my lips went blue; like a Smurf right.”

And the mother, who’s just so relieved that her darling, precious only child hasn’t suffered hypothermia, or taken some terrible drug (not saying that blue food colouring isn’t terrible, just not quite in the same league as Ecstasy or meth, or whatever).

And the kid goes, “yeah, like I told Dad cos he might check my browser history and …”

The mother is confused. “Why would that be a problem?”

Green poo

“Well” says the son, “a couple of days later I was like, pooing green and like … WOW!”

And the mother is more bewildered.

“So I did a search to find out why it was green.”

“You searched the internet for ‘green shit’?”

“No, I Googled ‘why is my poo green?’ And I told Dad cos I didn’t want him to think I’m like pervy or anything.”

By now, the mother has given up any attempt to eat and is not-very silently weeping with laughter.

“And what did Google say?” She is trying really hard to act as if conversations about unnaturally tinted excrement happen in all families.

“Too much spinach, blue food colouring or intestinal parasites.”

The son has now finished dinner and is nonchalantly loading the dishwasher.

“I knew I hadn’t been eating spinach, and I’m really glad it was the food colouring. It said you treat intestinal parasites with a ‘simple colon cleanse.’ That’s putting stuff up your bum isn’t it?” By now he’s wandering off to plug himself back into his computer.

The serious reflection bit

Afterwards, the mother finds herself thinking about the conversation. She has been a very hands-on mother; parenting solo quite a lot while her partner travels on business. She has answered her son’s questions about sex, Santa Claus and how Grandad got his tractor home from the place he bought it. She has explained blow-jobs and why aeroplanes look like they’re going fast from the ground but don’t feel fast when you’re on them. Sometimes she has felt inadequate to answer the questions and other times she’s been exhausted by the sheer inquisitiveness of her child. But now she reflects on being replaced with Google, and is glad that she has been her son’s “go to” source of information for so long. She will miss the left-field questions that her son has thrown her, and hopes that occasionally he will still come to her for guidance.

Though she has to admit, she’d never have offered blue food colouring as a cause of green poo.

Wordless Wednesday: ruling the roost

ruling the roost

Sometimes words aren’t necessary; other times, I just don’t have any. Whatever the reason, here are some Wordless Wednesday posts to enjoy.

Travel theme: reading the stones

Three weeks of glorious autumn in the UK and my photo album is bursting with shots that would fulfill Ailsa’s Travel Theme brief this week.

Most of my time was spent in Scotland and the Northeast of England; much of it doing family history research.

That meant lots of wandering around cemeteries and churchyards in search of ancestors’ headstones. I found a few – including a couple in tiny, isolated places – and felt a sense of connectedness to my past that I really didn’t expect.

I also noticed that Scottish headstones (or perhaps just the Lowland Presbyterian headstones from the eras I was interested in) are quite different to those I’m used to seeing in New Zealand cemeteries. Perhaps because there are more “flavours” of Christianity in NZ, and our earliest headstones date from Victorian times, they are often much more elaborate and include angels, cherubs, and crosses. Those I saw in Fife, Perthshire and Edinburgh were Church of Scotland (or Free Church) and even those from the 19th century were often very plain, and usually carved of sandstone. Many have no epitaph, and in fact, very little information about those interred beneath. The most elaborate, and the largest, were in Canongate Kirkyard in Edinburgh, but from reading them, I think that is because they belonged to wealthier, more prominent citizens than those buried in the smaller, often rural churchyards.

I found myself photographing them, singly and in clusters. Not because they belonged to my past, but because I found a stark beauty in the jumbles of crooked, fallen and weathered stones in Auchtermuchty, Kinglassie, Dysart, Kirkmichael, Abbotshall and Canongate on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

Headstone, Auchtermuchty churchyard. Su Leslie 2013

Headstone, Auchtermuchty churchyard. © Su Leslie 2013

The churchyard, Auchtermuchty. © Su Leslie 2013

The churchyard, Auchtermuchty. © Su Leslie 2013

Kinglassie cemetery. © Su Leslie 2013

Kinglassie cemetery. © Su Leslie 2013

Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh. © Su Leslie 2013

Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh. © Su Leslie 2013

Headstone, Canongate Kirkyard. © Su Leslie 2013

Headstone, Canongate Kirkyard. © Su Leslie 2013

What’s on my horizon?

An Auckland horizon; Rangitoto  Island - flanked by two works by sculptor Karen Walters. © Su Leslie, 2010.

An Auckland horizon; Rangitoto Island framed by two works by sculptor Karen Walters, exhibited at NZ Sculpture onShore, 2010.  © Su Leslie, 2010.

This Week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge theme is “horizon.”

For an Aucklander, Rangitoto is the inevitable presence on our horizon. A roughly circular volcanic cone that sits in the Hauraki Gulf, it is visible from all over the city. It is the newest of the 60-odd volcanoes that have shaped Auckland (being only about 600 years old), and is a constant reminder of the fragile position we occupy atop an immense geological fun-fair.

So, in one sense offering Rangitoto as an image of horizon is a cliche.But I have chosen this photo because it is about more than a beautiful and ever-present natural vista – it is also an image that captures a little of my personal horizon.

The sculptures that frame Auckland’s most iconic horizon were exhibited at NZ Sculpture onShore, a biennial exhibition of sculptures by many of the country’s leading – and emerging – artists, which raises funds for Women’s Refuge in New Zealand. The exhibition is held at Fort Takapuna, overlooking the Gulf, and with Rangitoto as its backdrop.

NZ Sculpture onShore is organised by a passionate and committed group of volunteers, some of whom have been involved with the exhibition since its inception in 1994. This year, I have joined the group, as both a Trustee of the fund-raising parent body, and as a member of the Board of NZ Sculpture onShore Ltd. Being part of the largest, and one of the most prestigious, outdoor art exhibitions in the country is exciting – but even better is knowing that the exhibition makes a significant financial contribution to the work of Women’s Refuge – over NZ$ 1.3million since its inception.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of Sculpture onShore, and it is our intention to make this 10th exhibition the best yet. That’s what’s on my personal horizon.

Cook until browned

Fuller's London Pride; a favourite brown drink.

Fuller’s London Pride; a favourite brown drink.

This week’s Travel Theme from Ailsa at Where’s my Backpack, is brown.

Now brown is a colour I actually quite like. We’ve used it a lot in decorating the house; our couches are nugget brown leather, and the kitchen cabinets dark oak – as are the photo frames in our “rogues gallery” of family photos.

When we bought the house it was full of goldish pine – a decor colour I really find hard to love. Yet, put the same hue on food and … well yum is about all I can say.

The images below were all captured at Covent Garden Market a couple of weeks ago – and I can tell you that the food tasted as good as it looked (not that I tried everything you understand).







Here are some other “Brown” posts you may enjoy:

Travel Theme: The Brown Sardinian Hazelnut

Phoneography Challenge: fade to black (and white)

Four weeks ago I was in Scotland; in the Perthshire village of Kirkmichael to be precise.

I was there because I knew that a distant branch of my family had lived in the village for most of the nineteenth century (and most likely well back beyond that), and I wanted to see if I could find any trace of them.

It took a couple of attempts to find the local cemetery – signposts for the church took me to one long abandoned and apparently without a churchyard.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Eventually, back in the village I found what I was looking for. It’s not a large cemetery; but an old one full of the plain headstones apparently favoured by Scots Presbyterians. I spend quite a lot of time in cemeteries these days, and have noticed definite “fashions” (or at least trends) in headstones. Not only are the Scots’ headstones usually quite simple shapes and largely unadorned with carving; they also seemed to me to contain very straightforward epitaphs. Whilst in Scotland, I didn’t see any of the “fell asleep in the arms of Jesus”-type inscriptions that are quite common in New Zealand.

kirkmichael headstone not family

One of the few ornate headstones in Kirkmichael cemetery; a beautifully carved Celtic cross.

But back to Kirkmichael. It was a very wet, grey day and I wasn’t wearing particularly robust shoes, so I was briefly tempted not to explore the cemetery with it’s slightly abandoned, overgrown feel. Thankfully, the feeling was very short-lived, for at the very bottom of the graveyard, close to the boundary wall and alongside the River Ardle, I found the headstone of my 3x great grandparents James Wallace and Anne Cunnison. Born in 1801 and 1807 respectively, James and Anne represent the oldest of my ancestors I have found an actual physical connection to, and it was a very special moment for me to stand in that little churchyard and know that I was touching something so connected to me.

The churchyard of Kirkmichael, Perthshire. In the foreground, the headstone of my great, great, great grandparents James Wallace and Anne Cunnison. The Wallace family lived in Kirkmichael throughout the nineteenth century.

river kirkmichael

The river Ardle as it flows through Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

As far as I know James and Anne lived their entire lives in Kirkmichael. This stands in complete contrast to their grand-daughter, Isabella Wallace who was born in St Madoes – also in Perthshire, but moved to Dundee as a child when her father died. She married my great grandfather Stewart Cruden in Dundee, then lived in several Fife villages before ending up in Dysart for a time before emigrating to the United States. Stewart and Isabella lived for 10 years in New Jersey before returning to Dysart in the early 1930s.

I had hoped that there would still be family members in the village, but it was a bleak day and even the pub was closed. I did try the cafe/general store/petrol station, but found it owned by a family from Coleshill, near Birmingham. They were fairly recent “incomers” and weren’t much help on the family history front. They did however serve a decent cup of coffee and quite nice lemon drizzle cake. And we had a pleasant chat about Coleshill; a village I know well from having worked there in the early nineties.

Ironic really to travel half way around the world in search of ancestors only to find a piece of my own past in the most unexpected place.

All photos taken on iPhone 4 and edited with Aviary Ultimate Photo Editor.

The theme of this week’s Phonography Challenge from Sally and Lens and Pens by Sally is black and white.

Here are some more posts you might enjoy:

A Phoneographic Philm Noir

Phoneography Challenge: Black and White

10 Things Tuesday: Scots words that have slipped back into my lexicon

photo credit: sidkid via photopin cc

photo credit: sidkid via photopin cc

I left Scotland as a five year old, and have lived elsewhere ever since. As a child I was very conscious of my accent – and even more of the dialect words my family used – cringing every time my parents uttered some Scots word or phrase my friends couldn’t possibly understand.

As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that some of those words and phrases captured an idea or a feeling much better than anything else in my vocabulary, and I like to think it’s a sign my maturity that I now use many of the same terms; certainly in my thinking, but increasingly in my speech.

1. Glakit: foolish or daft, but my mother tended to use it for geeky-looking types, so I’ve adopted it almost as a term of affection for my fellow-geeks.

2. Scunner: irritation or annoyance.

3. Clype: to tell tales, or tell on someone. Antipodeans use “dob” – as in “he dobbed them in.”

4. Drookit: to get soaking wet.

photo credit: clurross via photopin cc

photo credit: clurross via photopin cc

5. Baffies: slippers. As a child I absolutely hated this word with a passion I now find unimaginable. I died a thousand deaths every time my parents uttered the word, and I longed to be spirited away into a family that just  wore slippers. Then the other day I found myself describing a man I’d seen out collecting his mail as wearing “trackies (sweat pants) and baffies”, and I just loved the way it sounded. Sorry Mum and Dad!!!

6. Skelp: to slap, as in “I’ll gie you a skelpit lug (ear)”

7. Dreich: dull. Cold, damp and miserable miserable weather.

Small boy and jar of jam: guddling, clarty and ultimately drookit.

Small boy and jar of jam: guddling, clarty and ultimately drookit.

8. Guddle: means to catch fish by hand in a stream, but in our house it meant any sort of messy play – not necessarily just in water. I think I spent my childhood being told to “stop guddling.”

9. Bidie-in: co-habitee. This one didn’t exist in my childhood, but it describes my relationship with the Big T nicely.

10. Clart: to coat or cover. In our house it meant to engage in play that got us dirty. Like guddling, clarting about was actively discouraged.

And because I use this one too …

11. Shoogly: shakey.


Here are some other 10 Things posts you might like.

Weekly Photo Challenge: hue of me


“I really just want to be warm yellow light that pours over everyone I love.” Conor Oberst

Yellow is a colour of contradictions; on one hand we associate it with wealth, sunshine, optimism and happiness – and on the other with cowardice, jealousy and caution.

Yeah, sounds like  me – apart from the wealth bit.

I don’t wear yellow much any more, and the last time I decorated a room with it was when we did the boy-child’s nursery in blue and yellow with “raining cats and dogs” Ikea-print curtains.

It’s a colour I photograph a lot, and one I paint with, though mostly round the gold end of the yellow spectrum there.

“Fame stole my yellow. Yellow is the color you get when you’re real and brutally honest. “ Rosie O’Donnell, Celebrity Detox.


“As the yellow gold is tried in fire, so the faith of friendship must be seen in adversity.” Ovid.

orange skyline2

“ “gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold”.’
‘Is there a chorus?’
‘ “Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold”.’ said Hwel.
‘You left out a “gold” there.” Terry Pratchett

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge theme is “the hue of you.

Here are some posts I enjoyed:

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

Tangled up in Blue